Health care reform legislation is currently making its way through the United States Congress. The goal for the legislative process is a health system with universal access – health care available to every man, woman and child in America.

The eventual reform plan will likely be complex and expensive, on the order of more than $1 trillion over 10 years. Nevertheless, most of the voices involved in the debate agree that the nation’s health care system must be reformed in some way to address the biggest issues, including skyrocketing costs for health care and access to it for the more than 40 million people who are uninsured.

Two years ago the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania developed a helpful document on the issue of health care reform. Their moral framework was prescient and instructive for all Americans, especially lawmakers grappling with this complex issue. The Bishops identified six “essential criteria” of a reformed system: universal access for all Americans; a standard benefit package; coordination among health care providers for reformed delivery of care; responsible cost controls; a continuum of long-term care services; and mental and behavioral health care on a par with physical care as a feature of the standard coverage package.

These are positive objectives for a reformed system of health care. But one obstacle to its completion looms larger than the others. In fact, this obstacle is a deal breaker: the inclusion of taxpayer funding of abortions or the mandating of abortion coverage in a public health plan.

In the Pennsylvania Bishops’ document and letters from all other Catholic leaders, the most important feature of a reformed health system is a fundamental commitment to the sanctity and dignity of all human life. This includes, especially, the unborn child.

Compromise is to be expected in the legislative process, whereby all sides sacrifice some component they deem important but all end up with a bill (eventually signed into law) they can accept. But on the matter of human life – specifically its destruction through abortion as standard “health” coverage (it’s nothing of the kind) and/or requiring Americans to pay for it – compromise is unacceptable.

Before the process extends any further, contact your representative and senators in Congress and demand that abortion funding and coverage be kept out of this important legislation. Health care reform is too vital to all Americans for it to be derailed by a pro-abortion agenda. Worse yet, human life is too important to be destroyed in the name of health reform.